I have a theory, after reading Martha Stewart Living for many years, that she has simplified her gourmet recipes. I call it the Rachael Ray effect – modern cooks want great-tasting meals without all the gourmet techniques. And then Julia happened. Oh, Julia. Julia, Julia. After a certain blog-turned-book-turned-movie came out, who hasn’t been attempting Julia Child’s wonderful pastries and roasts in their so-not-French kitchens? I must say that Julia was not writing for the at-home cook. Or at least not the modern cook, who wants easy, healthy and fast recipes dumbed down to a 4th grade level.
Today will be known as the day I attempted my very first Julia Child recipe. Julia’s Pear Tart, which I found at another blog. It was written long and in a confusing order. I re-worked the recipe a bit, but I must warn you that this still took me ROUGHLY FOUR HOURS. From start to finish. Perfect for the holidays, if you are looking for an excuse to spend time away from the family. Also perfect for a free Sunday morning.
Julia Child’s Pear Tart, adapted by WriteGal
Make the sugar crust:
1 1/3 c. flour
7 T sugar
1/8 tsp baking powder
5 T butter, chilled, diced
2 T shortening
1 egg beaten with 1 tsp water
1/2 tsp vanilla
Whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder. In food processor, add butter and shortening, pulsing, until it resembles oatmeal flakes. Add egg and vanilla until dough forms a ball. Flatten into a disk and chill until firm, 1 hour to 3 days (if making ahead).
For the frangipane (I had never used this cooking method before, so I really had to trust Julia!):
1/2 c. toasted almonds, pulverized in food processor
1 large egg
1 egg yolk
3/4 c. sugar
1/3 c. flour
1 c. whole milk
3 T butter
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp almond extract
Whisk egg and yolk in large bowl (KitchenAid) until combined. Gradually add sugar and beat until pale yellow – 3 min. Beat in flour.
Heat milk in medium pot until scalded, temper into egg mixture, then pour all into egg bowl, whisking vigorously.
Pour milk-egg mixture back in the saucepot over moderate heat. Stir slowly until mixture thickens and coagulates into a stiff paste. NOTE: You will think you are doing this wrong because you’ll scrape up big globs from the bottom of the pot. Just keep stirring until it looks like some sort of gummy paste. Mom said it was like wallpaper paste. Beat vigorously with a whisk over low heat for 2-3 min. to cook the flour. Your arm will be sore! Take it off the heat and mix in butter, vanilla, almond extract, almonds. Let cool to room temp. Cover with a buttered parchment paper to prevent a skin from forming.
Now, bake the crust. Heat oven to 375.
On a floured surface, roll out chilled dough to 1/8 in. and transfer to false-bottomed tart pan (8 or 9 inches is fine). Press into corners and fold 1/2 in. over the edges. Trim excess.
Line tart with buttered foil and fill with uncooked rice, beans or pie weights. I used barley. Bake for 10-15 min. until just set and not sticky (mine took about 20 minutes, I couldn’t believe it!). Remove foil and weights, then cook another 7-8 min., or until lightly browned. Remove from oven to cool COMPLETELY.
For the pears:
2 c. red wine (I used merlot)
2 T fresh lemon juice
3/4 c. sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
3-4 rip-firm pears (Mine were totally not ripe)
1/4 c. red currant jelly or other dark preserve
In a sauce pan over medium heat, combine wine, lemon, sugar and cinnamon. Bring to a boil. Meanwhile, peel, half, stem and core the pears (melon baller is helpful). When liquid is boiling, add the pears and simmer until tender. Mine took 20 min. because they were so unripe, but yours might take 8-10 min.
The pears will become a rich ruby color and your house will smell like mulled cider. Let the pears cool in the liquid for 20 min. and then drain on a rack.
Rapidly boil the liquid down until the syrup starts to bubble like caramel, 230 degrees (I used a meat thermometer). Remove from heat and add preserves, stirring until dissolved.
Now, assemble the tart!
Paint the inside of the shell with the syrup. Fill shell with frangipane, smoothing with a spatula. Cut pears and place on top.
Lightly glaze pears with some of the remaining jelly. Serve chilled or at room temperature.
How did it taste, you ask? Very gourmet. The crust was perfectly flaky and flavorful, although some of the jelly baste dripped through and stuck to the underside. This can be remedied by simply putting buttered parchment on the bottom of the pan. The frangipane wasn’t too sweet, but had a rich nuttiness to it. The almond flavor was strong but not overpowering. In fact, the roasted almonds gave it an almost cocoa flavor, which surprised my guests to realize it had no chocolate in it. The pears tasted wonderful, just like mulled wine, and the jelly glaze was a wonderful finish. I recommend using the more tart red currant preserves because they match well with the sweetness of the other ingredients. A truly elegant dessert.
Enjoy, friends, and I hope everybody is having a happy and peaceful holiday! xoxo